Putin's pension reform amendment approved

Supporters of left-wing political parties and movements protesting against the pension plan in front of the Lower House of Parliament yesterday. Other rallies have also taken place across Russia in recent months.
Supporters of left-wing political parties and movements protesting against the pension plan in front of the Lower House of Parliament yesterday. Other rallies have also taken place across Russia in recent months.PHOTO: REUTERS

Russian President had made changes to soften unpopular proposal to raise retirement ages

MOSCOW • Russia's Parliament yesterday unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin's amendment to a deeply unpopular pension reform.

The government had proposed raising the retirement age for men from 60 to 65 and for women from 55 to 63, as part of efforts to balance Russia's creaking finances after four years of weak growth made worse by sanctions.

But the reform plan has turned out to be the country's most unpopular move in more than a decade.

It sparked a rare outburst of public anger, with tens of thousands rallying across Russia in recent months. Some 3,000 people demonstrated in Moscow last week in a protest organised by the Communist Party.

In a rare televised address last month, Mr Putin proposed a number of concessions, in an apparent attempt to stem a major fall in his approval ratings.

Parliament's Lower House, the State Duma, yesterday approved Mr Putin's proposal to soften the reform, raising the retirement age for women by five years to 60, instead of eight years to 63. But the plan to raise the retirement age for men from 60 to 65 would remain.

"We have reached a consensus on this matter and everyone has supported the President's amendments," said Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

Raising the retirement age would allow the government to pay out bigger pensions, Mr Putin said previously, describing the current pension size as modest.

The government says the average monthly pension will be 14,414 roubles (S$328) by the end of the year, compared with 13,339 roubles in July, as calculated by Russia's Federal State Statistics Service.

The reform Bill was approved by the State Duma in a first reading in July. It has to be approved in a key second and third reading before being signed into law by Mr Putin.

The President's announcement of the concession has done little to pacify ordinary Russians. Most are opposed to the hike in retirement age. Street protests have continued and the Kremlin faced a rare electoral crisis after candidates of the ruling party failed to win governorship polls in four regions this month.

The reform, announced on the day the World Cup started in Russia in June, will be the first retirement age increase in the country in nearly 90 years.

Given the low life expectancy of Russian men - 65 years - many would not live long enough under the reform to receive a state pension.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2018, with the headline 'Putin's pension reform amendment approved'. Print Edition | Subscribe